Save the Filibuster! #tcot #tlot #tpot

There is a effort underway to weaken,or even eliminate,the Filibuster.It is being led by Sen.s Udall & Harkin and all returning Democratic Senators have signed a letter calling for some (undefined),form of “Filibuster Reform”(fn1). Unions have also thrown their support behind it(fn2).
This would be undertaken either through negotiation w/ the Republican Senate leadership,or by changing the rules by a vote of 51 Senators.This last would be done in defiance of current Senate rules which require 67 votes to change the rules.(fn3)But,you may ask,”If the Senate rules require 67 votes to change the rules,how can they be changed with only 51 votes.” Arguably they can’t.(fn4,fn5)
Since the anti-filibuster Dems obviously do not have 67 votes,Sen.Udall et-al have argued that the Senate is not a continuing body,& that therefore the rules don’t carry over from election to election.They claim that on the first day of each Senate term the rules can be changed by only 51 votes,(Some anti-filibuster advocates argue that the Senate can change it’s rules at any time,not just on the first day,but their views don’t seem to be accepted by Udall & the other anti-filibuster Senators.)
(For arguments against these claims,as well as arguments against weakening the Filibuster in general see the sub-section below headed “Arguments against weakening the Filibuster”)

You may ask…”But isn’t the danger of weakening the Filibuster by a simple majority vote now past?After all the first day is now past”…
The answer is no,since the Senate did not adjourn.It is in recess.What’s the difference?The difference is that when the Senate returns on the 25th it will still be the first day of the Senate as far as the Senate calender is concerned.And Reid can keep it that way for weeks or months,should he choose to do so(fn6).
While all this is going on the Republican & Democratic leaderships are negotiating over the filibuster.If they cannot come to a agreement acceptable to the Democrats,Reid has threatened to act alone.(fn7) While Mcconnell’s willingness to participate in the
talks may simply be a gambit to buy time,it may also result in a agreement to weaken the filibuster.(Remember,these are the Republicans we are dealing with).
The press has reported,that Reid is reluctant to try to pass the rule change with only 51 votes,& that he would prefer to come to some kind of negotiated settlement with the GOP.There are several possible explanations for this.First,they don’t have the votes and need time to gather them.Second,Reid is worried that changing the rules with only 51 votes could set a dangerous precedent that could be used against them in the future.
Third,Reid & Udall are bluffing,not only do they not have the votes,they don’t think that they have any reasonable chance of getting the votes.They are playing Good Cop/Bad Cop,ending(or severely weakening),the filibuster wasn’t even a serious goal,it’s a bluff to strengthen their negotiating position for something else.Ending or weakening filibusters on the motion to proceed?(See Ramesh Ponnuru’s article below for why that would be dangerous).A “Gentleman’s agreement” ala the “Gang of 14” in which the Republicans agree not to block some of Obama’s nominees?Something else?I don’t know. I don’t think that they have the votes however.
I have two sources for my belief:

1.Politico:Democrats stymied on filibuster reform

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47001.html

2.Ruth Marcus | Filibuster This Plan

http://www.truth-out.org/ruth-marcus-filibuster-this-plan66554

….”my reporting indicates that the Udall forces lack a majority in favor of changing the rules by majority vote -which lessens the pressure on McConnell and Senate Republicans to reach a negotiated accommodation, the best possible solution.” …

Below are links to the proposals to weaken the Filibuster;
as well as links to arguments for preserving the filibuster(Ramesh Ponnuru is particularly good at explaining the nuances of the threat to it);as well as rebuttals to the claim that the Senate is not a continuing body. Beneath that you will find the “What can we do” & “Who should I call section”.

THE PROPOSALS TO WEAKEN THE FILIBUSTER:

The text of Udalls planned assault on the Filibuster:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/Rules%20Reform%20Resolution%201.5.11%5B7%5D.pdf

Could Senate Dems Nuke the Filibuster? – FoxNews.com

http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/01/03/could-senate-dems-nuke-filibuster

…..”If Democrats wrangled 51 votes to open up the rules, an outcome the senior[Democratic] aide considered too close to call, the floodgates would then be open for proposals, including a number that the aide called “more viable.” One would mandate a “talking filibuster,” on would require its sponsor to speak without end, ala “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Another rules change would require a filibustering senator to get his or her colleagues to join in the blockade on the floor. Still another, proposed by Sens. Claire McCaskill D-Mo., Ron Wyden, D-Oreg., and Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., would “require that all holds on legislation and nominees be submitted writing and automatically printed in the Congressional Record after one legislative day, whether the bill or nomination has been brought up for floor consideration or not,” according to a press release. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has still another rules change would eliminate “motions to proceed,” which now require the unanimous consent of all 100 members in order to start debate on a bill or nominee. “….

Senate Rules Reform Fight Likely To Be Drawn Out For Weeks

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/03/senate-rules-reform-likely-delayed_n_803914.html

….”The party, according to an operative working on the issue, will consider a variety of proposals this week, including one from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has championed a revision to filibuster rules that would decrease the 60-vote threshold over a series of votes. That approach is not expected to pass, but will serve as the “left flank” of the prospective proposals. Other Democratic senators, notably Tom Udall (N.M.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) are also expected to discuss their proposals for rules reform on the floor this week. “…

Hot topic: Filibuster reform

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/03/AR2011010305404.html

….” If early reports are to be believed, the Democrats, who hold a majority of votes in the Senate, are considering tweaks that would speed up the process of ending a filibuster and make it easier to hold a continuous debate on a bill. Filibusters would still be allowed on all bills that don’t go through budget reconciliation, and they would still require 60 votes to break. The Senate has a long tradition of revising its rules, customs and traditions”….

ARGUMENTS AGAINST WEAKENING THE FILIBUSTER:

For why I support the Filibuster see here:

http://theneointellectual.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/why-i-support-the-filibuster/

When It Comes to Reforming Senate Rules . . . – National Review Online:Ramesh Ponnuru

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/256552/when-it-comes-reforming-senate-rules-ramesh-ponnuru

….” These rules would, as is generally understood, weaken the minority. But what people who have not worked in the Senate may not appreciate is that they would not weaken the minority primarily by changing vote thresholds from super-majority to simple-majority. They would weaken the minority by giving the majority greater control over the Senate calendar. The minority party in the Senate, by extending debate on some issues, can force the majority to set priorities. The infamous bill to create a government for “native” Hawaiians wasn’t blocked because it lacked a supermajority; it died because Democrats were not willing to devote time to going through an extended debate over it. Note that this type of leverage depends on the minority’s influence over the calendar in general, not just over the scheduling of one bill. So if time for debate on nominations is cut down, as in the proposals, one effect will be to enable the Senate majority to confirm a lot of additional
nominees. But another effect will be to enable it to get a lot of other bills through by adding to the majority’s available time. The proposal to end filibusters on motions to proceed would reduce the minority’s leverage in a different way. The argument for getting rid of this filibuster is that the minority now gets the chance to filibuster twice: once before the Senate takes up a bill for consideration on the floor, and once when the majority wants to move to a vote. But the first-stage filibuster gives the minority leverage to force the majority to let it offer amendments.
Without a filibuster on a motion to proceed, the minority can still try to filibuster the final bill —but members of the minority will have to make an up-or-down choice rather than having the chance to modify the legislation. Only when Republicans blocked the motion to proceed on the 9/11-responders bill was Senator Coburn able to force constructive changes of it. The proposed rules attempt to meet this concern by guaranteeing the minority the right to offer three germane amendments to any bill. But there is less to this concession than meets the eye. Under current rules, amendments have to be germane only in the next-to-last stages of Senate debate. Before that, amendments don’t have to meet any standard of tight relevance to an underlying bill. Thus Republicans, though in the minority, defeated a bill to give the District of Columbia voting representation in the U.S. House by attaching to it an amendment giving D.C. residents gun rights as well —at which point the
Democrats pulled the plug on the bill. The proposed rules would in practice mean that such amendments would be out of bounds at all times. (The minority is guaranteed only germane amendments, and without the chance to filibuster motions to proceed no longer has much leverage to insist on anything else.) Note, meanwhile, that the majority would face no such constraint of germaneness. Senate Democrats passed a hate-crimes law by tacking it on to a defense bill.”…

He concludes with a warning:

….” But don’t underestimate how much power these proposed rules, taken together, would give to the majority.”….

See Former Senate Parlimentarian Bob Dove on the illegitimacy of the “Nuclear Option”:

Could Senate Dems Nuke the Filibuster? – FoxNews.com

http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/01/03/could-senate-dems-nuke-filibuster

Senate website undermines Democrats’ anti-filibuster argument | Washington Examiner

http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/opinion-zone/2011/01/senate-website-undermines-democrats-anti-filibuster-argument

Filibuster ‘Reform’ May Be Unconstitutional – Big Government

http://biggovernment.com/bdarling/2011/01/05/filibuster-reform-may-be-unconstitutional/

Filibuster: Protects the Rights of Senators and the American People | The Heritage Foundation

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/01/the-filibuster-protects-the-rights-of-all-senators-and-the-american-people

American Thinker Blog: Left Targets filibuster to ease way for Obama agenda

http://americanthinker.com/blog/2011/01/left_targets_filibuster_to_eas.html

NewsOK Whining about filibuster tactic nothing new in U.S. Senate Published: Jan 6, 2011

http://m.newsok.com/whining-about-filibuster-tactic-nothing-new-in-u.s.-senate/article/3529666

John Sununu Democrats err in bid to muzzle Senators

http://mobile.boston.com/art/67//bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/01/03/democrats_err_in_bid_to_muzzle_senators/?single=1&p=2

Podhoretz Condemns the hypocrisy of both sides:

‘Nuclear’ games – NYPOST.com

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/nuclear_games_BJPwX4o6ITj0kW5P0L9LhP

Liberals/Progressives who defend the Filibuster,(plus a Conservative argument for why Filibuster reform will hurt the Democrats):

Democrats passionately defend the Filibuster:

YouTube – Senate Rules Ensure All Americans Are Heard

The American Spectator : Harold’s Hack Attack

http://spectator.org/archives/2009/11/12/harolds-hack-attack

Abolishing the Senate: Yet Another Horrendously Bad Idea from Anti-Democracy Proponents | MyFDL

http://my.firedoglake.com/michaelkwiatkowski/2011/01/11/abolishing-the-senate-yet-another-horrendously-bad-idea-from-anti-democracy-proponents/

Follow-Up on Abolishing the Senate: Yet Another Horrendously Bad Idea « Progressive Independence

http://blogs.alternet.org/michaelkwiatkowski/2011/01/12/follow-up-on-abolishing-the-senate-yet-another-horrendously-bad-idea/

Ruth Marcus | Filibuster This Plan( As noted above Marcus also reports that her sources tell her they don’t have the votes.)

http://www.truth-out.org/ruth-marcus-filibuster-this-plan66554

A Conservative argues that eliminating the filibuster will hurt the Democrats.

The Democrats Have a Suicide Wish With Filibuster Reform | RedState

http://www.redstate.com/dhorowitz3/2010/12/29/the-democrats-have-a-suicide-wish-with-filibuster-reform/

Abortion-rights groups concerned on filibuster reform – Ben Smith – POLITICO.com

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0111/Abortionrights_groups_concerned_on_filibuster_reform.html?showall

WHAT WE MUST DO & WHO WE MUST CONTACT:

Clearly we must contact the Republican leadership & demand that they not cave to Democratic pressure.We must also contact any Democrats whom we can reasonably expect to be persuaded,& seek to persuade them.We also need to ensure that there are no Republican defectors,(see Mike Lee & Dan Coats). Beyond that Erick Erickson has offred this suggestion.

[the GOP should]:
…”pre-emptively threaten to go nuclear. One enterprising Senator can blow the whole thing up by threatening to object to every unanimous consent over the next two years. It would grind the Senate to a halt.”… See:

Fight Back! | RedState

http://www.redstate.com/erick/2011/01/04/fight-back/

Contact your Senators,as well as those listed below.I also recommend that you contact Senators Rubio,Johnson,Paul, Coburn,& Demint and urge them to be prepared to use the strategy Erickson recommends above.
Also contact anyone you know who might be interested and alert them to the threat (Friends & Family members,Facebook friends,Twitter followers etc.).If you belong to any political organizations (your local Teaparty group,your local Republican organization etc.),contact them and urge them to act.

CONTACT LIST:

Class I,II,etc refer to when they next come up for reelection. Class I:2012
Class II:2014
Class III:2016
(I include this so that you will not leave a angry voice mail threatening to defeat someone in 2012 when they don’t come up for reelection until 2014 or 2016.)

I recommend that you start with the Republican leadership, they are currently negotiating with the Democratic leadership over the filibuster.

They are:

Mitch Mcconnell -(R -KY) Class II
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2541

http://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=contact

Jon Kyl-(R -AZ) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4521

http://kyl.senate.ov/contact.cfm

Lamar Alexander-(R -TN) Class II
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4944

http://alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Email

Then Republicans who have expressed support for weakening the filibuster:

Daniel Coats-(R -IN) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5623

Mike Lee -(R -UT) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5444

Then I would recommend contacting the Democratic members of the “Gang of 14” ,and remind them of their love of the filibuster.

Mark L. Pryor-(D -AR) Class II(see also fn8 where Pryor is undecided) WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2353

http://pryor.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactMe

Joseph I. Lieberman-(ID -CT) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4041

http://lieberman.senate.gov/index.cfm/contact/email-me-about-an-issue

Daniel K. Inouye-(D -HI) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-3934

http://inouye.senate.gov/Contact/ContactDKI.cfm

Mary L. Landrieu-(D -LA) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5824

http://landrieu.senate.gov/about/contact.cfm

Ben Nelson -(D -NE) Class I (also expressed reservations see fn8) WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-6551

http://bennelson.senate.gov/contact-me.cfm

Next I would add Max Baucus,since he has also publicly expressed reservations about the scheme(fn8):

Max Baucus -(D -MT)
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2651

http://baucus.senate.gov/?p=contact

I would then add these Democrats who will be vulnerable in
2012:(In addition to Lieberman & Nelson,listed above,who are also vulnerable)

See this article:

http://www.redstate.com/dhorowitz3/2010/12/29/the-democrats-have-a-suicide-wish-with-filibuster-reform/

Bill Nelson -(D -FL) Class I
WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-5274

http://billnelson.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm

Debbie Stabenow-(D -MI) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4822

http://stabenow.senate.gov/email.cfm

Claire Mccaskill -(D -MO) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-6154

http://mccaskill.senate.gov/?p=contact

Jon Tester -(D -MT) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2644

http://tester.senate.gov/Contact/index.cfm

Robert Menendez -(D -NJ) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4744

http://menendez.senate.gov/contact/

Kent Conrad -(D -ND) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2043

http://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Robert P.Casey Jr.-(D -PA) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-6324

http://casey.senate.gov/contact/

Jim Webb-(D -VA) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4024

http://webb.senate.gov/contact.cfm

Joe Manchin III -(D -WV) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-3954

http://manchin.senate.gov/contact_form.cfm

Herb Kohl -(D -WI) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5653

http://kohl.senate.gov/contact.cfm

Potentially waffling Republicans:

Lisa Murkowski-(R -AK) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-6665

http://murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact

John McCain-(R -AZ) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2235

http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm

Mark Kirk-(R -IL) Class III (Kirk seems opposed See fn9)
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2854

http://www.kirk.senate.gov/contact_form.cfm

Richard G. Lugar-(R -IN) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4814

http://lugar.senate.gov/contact/

Chuck Grassley -(R -IA) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-3744

http://grassley.senate.gov/contact.cfm

Susan M. Collins-(R -ME) Class II
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-2523

http://collins.senate.gov/public/continue.cfm?FuseAction=ContactSenatorCollins.EmailIssue

Olympia J. Snowe-(R -ME) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5344

http://snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactSenatorSnowe.Email

Scott P. Brown-(R -MA) Class I (fn10)
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4543

http://scottbrown.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/emailscottbrown

Lindsey Graham-(R -SC) Class II
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5972

http://lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.EmailSenatorGraham

Orrin G. Hatch -(R -UT) Class I
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5251

http://hatch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Offices.Contact

As I noted above Redstate has proposed the following possible countermeasure:

Fight Back! | RedState

http://www.redstate.com/erick/2011/01/04/fight-back/

I think the following Republicans may be most willing to carry it out:

Marco Rubio-(R -FL) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-3041

Rand Paul-(R -KY) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-4343

Tom Coburn -(R -OK) Class III
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5754

http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactsenatorcoburn?p=ContactForm

DeMint, Jim -(R -SC)
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-6121

http://demint.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactInformation

Ronald H. Johnson-(R -WI)
WASHINGTON DC (202) 224-5323

Footnotes:

Fn1.

NationalJournal.com – Senate’s Returning Democrats Unanimously Favor Filibuster Reform – Thursday, December 23, 2010

http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/senate-s-returning-democrats-unanimously-favor-filibuster-reform-20101222?mrefid=site_search

Fn2.

Unions mount a big push against the Senate filibuster » peoplesworld

http://peoplesworld.org/unions-mount-a-big-push-against-the-senate-filibuster/

Fn3.

NYT: Democrats to Seek Rules Change

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/us/politics/04cong.xml

…..”Citing the Constitution and prior Senate rulings, Mr. Udall has argued that senators have the ability to change the chamber’s rules by a majority vote on the first day of the new Congress, which for the 112th Congress begins at noon Wednesday. “I am intending on offering my constitutional option on the first day,” Mr. Udall said in a telephone interview as he prepared to return to Capitol Hill. Senate leaders, seeking more time for bipartisan talks aimed at avoiding a potentially disruptive showdown on the Senate floor, are preparing a tactic that would let negotiations continue while maintaining the ability of Democrats to press ahead with their changes if talks prove fruitless. In essence, Democrats could put the Senate in recess at the conclusion of Wednesday’s mainly ceremonial proceedings to be highlighted by the swearing in of 13 new senators. As a result, the Senate would technically still be in the same legislative day when lawmakers returned on Jan. 24, and the
backers of the rules changes could proceed at that point if they were not satisfied. Mr. Udall could also seek other guarantees that his right to challenge the rules was not harmed by the delay, which he said could give him more time to build support for his plan. In the interim, Congressional officials said, talks over a rules compromise could continue between Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat and chairman of the Rules Committee, would continue parallel talks with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is in line to be the top Republican on that panel. Past rules disputes have usually been averted through such negotiations. But if no agreement is reached, lawmakers say they will force a debate, which Republicans and some Democrats have warned could rupture relations in the Senate, tie up President Obama’s agenda & lead Democrats to regret the decision if they return to the minority. “….

fn4.

Could Senate Dems Nuke the Filibuster? – FoxNews.com

http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/01/03/could-senate-dems-nuke-filibuster

fn5.

Filibuster: Protects the Rights of Senators and the American People | The Heritage Foundation

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/01/the-filibuster-protects-the-rights-of-all-senators-and-the-american-people

[By the way,changing the rules with 51 votes is called “The Nuclear option” by it’s opponents & “The Constitutional option” by it’s critics]

fn6.This is not a invention of Reid.The longest amount of time that the Senate was “frozen” was in 1980,@ 162 days. See:

NYT: Democrats to Seek Rules Change

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/us/politics/04cong.xml

fn7.
The Plum Line – Harry Reid sure sounds serious about filibuster reform

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/harry_reid_sure_sounds_serious.html

fn8.
For Nelson,Pryor,& Baucus see:

Democrats’ filibuster plan in jeopardy – Scott Wong and Manu Raju – POLITICO.com

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47110.html

For more on Nelson see:

Ben Nelson on filibuster: ‘The last thing we need to do is start changing rules’ – The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/136111-ben-nelson-on-filibuster-the-last-thing-we-need-to-do-is-start-changing-rules

fn9.

Durbin, Kirk weigh in on filibuster reform | WBEZ

http://www.wbez.org/story/filibuster-reform/durbin-kirk-weigh-filibuster-reform

fn10.

Brown will oppose change in filibuster – The Sun Chronicle Online – News

http://m.thesunchronicle.com/articles/2011/01/15/news/8691756.txt

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